If you are up your own arse and you fart, you’re gonna get shit on your hands
It’s a Wednesday night in rainy Manchester and I’m upstairs at Sound Control, set to interview Black Country duo God Damn. Having just accepted some crisps from the hand of drummer Ash that he jokingly (I hope) says had been fondling his nards, and almost having the pleasure of conducting the interview with the pair topless, we sit down and get to it.
About forty minutes before this, the boys are absolutely slaying on stage. Eye-wateringly loud, God Damn have such a powerful sound. Thundering drums back howling vocals and doom laden riffs. Tonight they arrived on stage through a weird makeshift plastic curtain, like they were a wrestling tag team from the 80’s – Front man Thom out first with his arms raised up in the air, shouting out Tom Waits lyrics, whilst drummer Ash followed behind, the big hitter of the team. The boys chuckle at this, with Ash commenting “I thought it was like we worked in the freezer section of Iceland or something.” On stage God Damn seemed to be having a blast too, even if Thom was a little unhappy with his guitar sound, “Tonight they just sounded a bit like…a little badger had crawled in and scuffled around and taken a shit in my pedals, and then come out through my amps and wiped his bum in my amps and left them turned on.”
Ash “It’s always good to come to Manchester”
Thom “You know what, I always feel relaxed in Manchester. Normally I’m like (sounds panicked) “Hi, y’alright?” and then I’m in Manchester and I can be a bit more like meself on stage, really. Tell stupid NASA jokes”
Musically, they’re a punishing combo. Unrelentingly loud…But they’ve also got great on stage patter. It’s good to see a band that have the dynamite combination of being really bloody good, whilst being able to have the crack in between songs without it feeling too forced. The way they bounce off each other in conversation is as true on stage as it is off (though Thom does most of the talking on stage…)
Manchester being their fifth date, God Damn were in the midst of supporting Leeds four piece Hawk Eyes on their UK album tour. Before that they were in Europe, up to all sorts of “shenanigans” when they weren’t playing shows (stories mainly involving Ash, such as eating a teacake without closing his mouth and farting in a fan’s face) which long suffering manager/driver/guitar tech/drum tech Ivor was not so sure of “…Met a lot of nice people and deafened them”
Thom “We did not deafen them! Sore subject, next question”
Going back to that tag team analogy mentioned earlier, there is quite a bit of truth in that. God Damn originally started out as a three piece, but Ash and Thom have been performing without founding member Dave Copson for quite some time now. The band officially broke their silence on the matter a few months back, posting an official statement on their website announcing that they were parting ways with Dave, with the former guitarist moving on in his life and looking toward his next musical project. As mentioned in the statement:
“We carried on as a two piece unsure of what would happen in the future, but as time has passed we have decided to carry on without Dave. This decision has not been taken lightly and has had many complexities, but we now feel it is best for all of us to make this formal and sad announcement.”
Whilst sad news capped off the year, 2014 started off with a joyous and monumental announcement for the pair, as they signed with label One Little Indian Records. Rubbing shoulders with the likes of The Computers and Bjork (!), their signing to One Little Indian confirmed that their debut album was also on the way. Since then, their first release on One Little Indian came in the form of their blistering single ‘Shoe Prints in the Dust’ on 7” limited edition pink vinyl in April. The video soon followed, a council estate epic in which a little girl transformed people into plush toys using her laser beam eyes (!) whilst Ash and Thom thrashed away in the background.
Since then, the album date has loomed and two mighty singles have been released – stomping, Queens of the Stone Age-esque ‘Horus’, and the frenetic, howling assault of ‘When The Wind Blows.’ Both singles were accompanied by videos, the latter of which is a stripped back, amateur setup in the band’s lockup.
Thom “We made a video and it was not what we wanted, shall we say that? We won’t say it was rubbish, we’ll say it was not the idea that we were after. Then we just got a Gopro and did it ourselves.”
Ash “Just roughed it a bit”
Thom “Roughed it, did it in our lockup. ‘Cus we haven’t done a homemade video. It can be shit if it’s homemade, it can be slightly rough around the edges shall we say…”
Ash “That head gear what I wore was… ridiculous”
Thom “…I didn’t have time to order the cheaper stuff online, so I got my belt (laughs) and some zip ties, and zip tied around the belt and then put a hat on his head so the zip ties wouldn’t hurt his head…”
Ash “Gopro helmet”
Thom “…We should’ve just made a video of us making the Gopro helmet”
‘When The Wind Blows’ is two and a half minutes of head banging glory, a proper assault, but the album will also feature much lengthier sagas. They’re not all little pop bangers!
Thom “So far they’ve just been little poppy bangers, pop smash hits that get a million plays on Youtube. The album’s quite deep and there’s some eight minute songs on there and bits and pieces, so we’re gonna release some of the longer ones, but there’ll be shorter versions of the longer ones for radio”
Thom “I think people weren’t expecting the first one to be so poppy. It was quite poppy and-“
Ash “Yeah, it seems to have grown over the three singles, well two singles – third single to be released 9th of March. But it seems to have grown, everyone seems to have put that next step up, shown different sides to us”
Thom “…I think for us to go like ‘boosh’ and our first single be really big wouldn’t work for this album, I think it’s gotta be a slow build. As with everything we do as a band, it’s gotta be a kind of gradual but obvious increase in…performance (laughs) and synergy!”
Ash “It’s shown different sides to us I think”
Thom “Because the album’s not a thrash album all the way through, it’s-“
Ash “There’s a lot of elements to it”
Thom “A lot of different dynamics and stuff to it”
Thom goes on further to explain the reasoning behind singles for the new album and their thought process going into the studio.
Thom “…Not enough pop smashes. I think we finished the album and some people who work with us were like ‘Err, where are the singles?’ Nobody told us to go and write some singles. We thought a couple might be singles, but we didn’t really go in and try and record any singles. We just wanted to make a good album. That might’ve got us in trouble – there we go (laughs) I think the record’s gonna do really well, and I’m really proud of it”
Vultures is officially released 11 May 2015 through One Little Indian Records. The announcement came in the form of a photo posted across the bands various social media accounts, with Thom clutching a track listing whilst Ash did his best to look like ‘The Million Dollar Man’ Ted Dibiase with copies of the album in place of dollars. On the One Little Indian website (where you can pre-order the album) they’ve hyped it up quite well: ‘As debuts go, God Damn have nailed their colours to the flagpole and torched the fucker’
Thom “It’s cool man, it’s really nice. You know what, going really emotional and shit, I’m really fucking proud of this album.”
Ash “It’s great, man. Love it. Sorry to blow my own trumpet, but it is…It’s just something that we’re both really happy with-”
Thom “It feels like a full album. It doesn’t feel like we’re fannying around and putting a few singles together, It’s an album”
Ash “To have the release date in sight is amazing. It’s felt like about ten years since we recorded it. It feels like we’ve been telling everybody for ages that we wanna release it tomorrow.”
Thom “We kinda did go all around the houses recording the album and learnt some lessons, but it’s been ready a while (laughs)”
Round the houses would be a good way of summing it up. The original plan was to start the recording process at Toe Rag Studios in Hackney, but that got nixed in favour of Metropolis, located at ‘The Power House’ in London. Then it was back to Wolverhampton to do the vocals, but Thom wasn’t so sure about what they came out with. Mixing was a different story altogether.
Thom “We tried to get a whole bunch of people to mix it and we couldn’t find anybody who could mix it how we wanted it to be mixed, which was painful because a couple of people had a go mixing it who are in bands that I really loved and it didn’t quite work out. So that was quite painful. We just ended up getting the guy who produced it to mix it, just because we couldn’t find anybody else-“
Ash “He smashed it”
Thom “He smashed it. Because we were making the record together, he knew where it wanted to be. We were all in the same ball park of where we wanted the record to be, we didn’t want it to be like a trashy, really cool garage rock sounding thing. We love those records, however we just kinda wanted to make – there’s a lot of depths, there’s a lot of layers to it”
It would be too easy to produce something without much thought and just throw it out there, so the term ‘round the houses’ is a touch detrimental. Their insistence on searching out the right studio and taking their time on the new record is a sure fire indicator of their dedication to creating something they really wanted to release. Something which I’m sure the label picked up on when they were signed.
Thom “We got to go and hang around in a multimillion pound studio, and without the label we wouldn’t have been able to do that. We never would’ve been able to afford to go to that studio, or any of the studios we’ve been to. That’s been real fun, that’s the kind of cool part of signing to One Little Indian. They’re like a family now”
Ash “Yeah, it’s opened a lot of different doors for us I guess. That’s why you’ve got to be thankful”
Thom “They just go around opening doors for people don’t they, One Little Indian. Just go around saying ‘You can come in ‘ere – but you can’t leave’ Bjork’s on reception”
One of the highlights on their calendar leading up to the release of their debut album is a trip to the US of A, as God Damn are leaving behind the sights and sounds of Wolverhampton and heading out play this year’s SXSW festival in Austin, Texas! Through the support of the PRS for Music Foundation, who are the UK’s leading funder in new music of all genres, the lads will be making their trip stateside mid-March. Rad as fuck.
Thom “…They’ve given us a little bit of money, which has made things easier. There’s been a lot of people in helping us get there. Obviously the label’s helped us get there and lots of other people.”
Ash “But yeah, bloody hell – South by Southwest. Who’d of thought it? (laughs)”
Thom “Who’d a thunk it? We’re gonna go and get really busy and frustrated with loads of other musicians”
Ash “It’s kind of somewhere where we’ve wanted to play for a long time”
Thom “Years I’ve been wanting to go to SXSW, so it’s nice to be playing there”
Previous acts who’ve received funding to head across the pond and play at SXSW have included Eagulls, Tall Ships and Dan Croll. This year God Damn will be joined by thirteen other artists, including Kate Tempest, East India Youth and Bad Breeding.
So not content with knocking around Europe, farting in people’s faces, God Damn are off gallivanting around America too. So they’re in a pretty good place right now.
Thom “It’s one of those things where you always want more. You’re always like ‘if we just get that, then we’ll be happy’ but then it just kinda happens and you’re like ‘what’s next?’ You kind of forget to take stock of things, and we’ve come a long way. If it was to all end tomorrow, then I’d be sad, but I’ve kind of got to have a bit of perspective on it, look at it and go we’ve actually done fucking more than I thought we could have done”
Ash “Oh yeah, literally if it all ended tomorrow-“
Thom “We’ve made our little mark”
Ash “I’d be happy. (Laughs) Not if it ended, but I’d be happy with what we’ve achieved”
Thom “Which is a terrible thing to say, that sounds like complacency. We’re not complacent, we’re still thirsty – (adopts cockney accent) we’re still fackin’ hungry. Still fackin’ want a number one hit single. No, I just think the album will do well and it’ll start to percolate. I don’t think it’s gonna be one of those things where it’ll be like ‘bam’ or whatever. I think it’ll just percolate, and it doesn’t sound like any other album I know, so I’m really happy with that.”
Ash “There you go (burps)”
But by the sounds of it, maybe it might all end tomorrow…
Thom “We go home and we smile, don’t we mate? (laughs) I can’t afford a pair of jeans; I’m wearing my wife’s leggings underneath my jeans-”
Ash “Ageing by the week, like – badly.”
Thom “We’re getting older, we look about 40 now. We started this at 18 years old and were 48 now”
Ash “…I look like a bloody panda with these black rings round my eyes”
Thom “(Laughs) We look like victims, don’t we? But yeah-“
Ash “We love it – it’s the truth”
Thom “Guitar sounds a bit poo one night, but it sounds good most of the nights. But the album tour’s gonna be brilliant, we’re gonna smash it up on the album”
Ash “Can’t wait”
Thom “I bet we sound like right boozy, arrogant pricks – and that’s probably about right”
Not that they are, but God Damn have every right to be arrogant pricks. Their highly anticipated debut album looks to join a long list of accomplishments for the band this year, and I’ve no doubt it will be appearing in many end of year lists come December. Here’s to God Damn, farting in the faces of fans everywhere, and the release of Vultures in May.
Thom “You should go and get it, and listen to it on some headphones ‘cus it’s not made to be listened to on a little laptop or in a van. It’s a headphones album. We could’ve done that whole – I mean there’s some songs that sound wicked on the radio, but it’s a headphones album. So get some headphones. Crank it up. Buy the album. Take yourself into outer space. Come back down. Have a sleep. Think about it. Go meet your friends in the pub. Give everybody a hug. Yeah”
Ash “I nearly cried then”
You can hear the full interview, warts and all, below. Because you really need to hear the story of Ash farting in a fan’s face, as well as his unannounced belches and Thom’s many different accents and tone changes!